CriticalDance Forum

Bytom 2010 - reviews in English
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Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Sun Aug 08, 2010 5:26 am ]
Post subject:  Bytom 2010 - reviews in English

Fear of technology - Review of "Re/evolution", July 2010

By Ewa Zielinska

The opening was marvellous. As an introduction, before even entering the auditorium, the audience followed a path through hidden, disused halls and corridors of the Szombierki power plant and watched short episodes. An elegant man fed with cherries, thrown at him from the top floor; a woman washing a shirt and then wrestling with a man. Both the fascinating, truculent characters and the completely new use of this site specific space drew the audience's attention. With a perfect use of horizontal and vertical surfaces, the viewers themselves could experience the movements.

Unfortunately, these initial scenes aroused expectations that were not fulfilled in the performance in the main auditorium. This collaboration between Silesian Dance Theatre and Y-Space proved to be too long, stylistically inconsistent and tiresome. Sadly, the show was not saved despite the great lightness of movement of the Hong Kong dancers. Nevertheless, the comic elements were a moment of relief, though. Probably, the most interesting aspect of the piece was an attempt to show the dance as a polyphonic mode of expressing oneself. In one section, the actors entered the stage one at a time with a boom box, presenting their personality through dance, distinctive music and monologues, which are not only part of their identity but also represent the cultural background of their worlds.

"Re/evolution" once again brings up the subject of technocracy in the human world. Our lives are overloaded with technological gadgets; electronic devices accompany us in all, even intimate, situations. We have explored the cosmos for many years, still preserving some of the cultural relics. Fear of a world dominated by machines, which dehumanise our lives, proves to be an extremely attractive theme for artists. All in all, the question whether this fear is exaggerated, remains open.

Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Sun Aug 08, 2010 5:29 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Bytom 2010 - reviews

The art of choice

by Regina Lissowska

"The battle between carnival and Lent" by the Polish Dance Theatre is a work as full of meanings as a Breugel painting. It touches upon the eternal questions of human condition, symbolised by the gift, or the curse, of free choice - the path we follow, which leads through happiness and suffering, truth and illusion, the sublime and the ridiculous, beauty and ugliness.

The audience become participants, forced from the very beginning to choose what to pay attention to. Whether to stay in one place, or walk around the various platforms, from which the dancers seduce with pride, lure with greed, charm with impurity, shock with envy, frighten with immoderation, amaze with anger, tempt with sloth...Trying to see it all, we face constant uncertainty. Did we miss something important? We are led through this dance parade of embodied, Seven Deadly Sins by a master, who preaches seven simple truths. But can we and do we want to accept them? Or maybe, like the characters leaving the stage, we ask for humility, moderation and wisdom, but not for the given moment.

In spite of the warnings, the viewers choose the carnival. The connected platforms turn into a catwalk, on which a frantic combination of a futuristic fashion show and a psychedelic party begins. The carnival trance is interrupted by the arrival of a procession of penitents, that spread the smell of incense. A pair of drunks are the only ones left on the stage. Those two people, burned out and wasted by the ghastly party, begin some ludicrous and miserable advances, amidst the abandoned costumes and confetti.

Zbigniew Łowżyła's music, performed live by the "Collegium F" Chamber Orchestra, conducted by Marcin Sompoliński, is an extremely important part of the show. The nightmarish, yet beautiful music, intensifies the restless atmosphere.

This show, though essentially modern, is modelled after medieval morality plays. It tells us not simply about sin, but rather about giving up the effort of setting out on an inner journey or looking for truth about ourselves. Too often, paraphrasing the words spoken during the show, do we choose the easy, well-trodden path. But the authors of the piece avoid simple moralizing and definite answers. They show only the incessant battle between Lent and the carnival.

Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Sun Aug 08, 2010 5:36 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Bytom 2010 - reviews

The Young Choreographers' Evening, July 2010

By Ewa Zielińska

The Young Choreographers' Evening proved to be extremely interesting. The first performance featured Korina Kordova. To begin, she ran around a marked stage space, a well known and often used motif. In fact, the artist employed several established elements characteristic of the Silesian Dance Theatre: dynamic movement with pauses, as well as monologue, when Korina said with excitements and commitment "it comes from the inside/from the interiors", again a well-known device. . Similarly, when the character shows some glimpses of her body, that mark certain experiences, interacting with the viewers.

The artist smoothly moves from a description of a tragic and painful life to moments of love and happiness, savouring the heart-shaped candy. "Borderline" is the boundary that the artist continually crosses. Korina Kordova was the centre, like the axis mundi, marking the centre of the universe, a place where the audience could experience the sacred. The lack of stage design and props, intensive music and a lack of colour is typical for many works. The whole was fluent, coherent and pleasant for the viewer, without offering anything new. At the same time, the popular formula helped to avoid any set-backs and satisfied the fastidious audience.

Another young choreographer brought more space to the traditional style. "Bodyteller" by Dorota Łęcka is a story of a princess, who, as the work opens, unfortunately is neither bright nor pretty. The character evolves and frees herself, after acquiring knowledge and experience. The murky and tense atmosphere does not resemble childhood stories, where pink princesses live happy lives. Her body is at first static and only after some time, after achieving new levels of consciousness (symbolised by leg washing, drinking water, moving from vertical to horizontal spaces, dressing herself) the body becomes more dynamic, losing control to the point of breaking the last bounds: the tip that supports the world. Dorota Łęcka used props, expanded the stage space, created a character of a mad princess sinking in greyness.

In his work, "", the highlight of the evening, Robert Przybył used vivid elements of cinematography. Multimedia in the modern theatre have always caused problems. New technologies are often used to enrich a show with additional images or inscriptions and projectors simultaneously show various scenes. However, all of these procedures are often unnecessary additions. They sometimes hardly contribute to the show or even spoil it. Screening additional captions or images seems to be a mere trinket. It is really difficult to use multimedia in a way that it would become a crucial part of the show. Robert Przybył managed to do that, and many should follow his example in using "non-theatrical" techniques. His "" is an intimate story about him and his body - a dispersed, fluid identity of our times. A bloodstained silhouette, with a strong shadow stands out against the white background multiplies the characters actions. The jerky movement and torpor takes over the stage. Owing to the use of a projector, we could witness the transformation, departure and cramming (literally) of a sequence of personality traits. Despite some small defects (some of the effect could give an impression of artificiality), the artist impressively shows excruciating pain with a few motions of multiple character. At the end, he also talks about himself, his birth and his life. The scene is preceded by a world of digits, which dominate human life. In the modern world, digits represent us, define who we are. However, the artist manages to break through this barrier. He talks of himself honestly, uncompromisingly exposing his inner self. Through the disclosure of the intimate information, his character is completely unveiled. Standing nude on the stage, portraying a human and not just facts and numbers.

Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Sun Aug 08, 2010 5:40 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Bytom 2010 - reviews

"On dancing....without emotions", July 2010

By Monika Gorzelak

A movement is born in front of our very eyes. Arms and legs in the lotus position describe a circle on the empty stage - repeatedly and chaotically. Next, the legs straighten. They lift the torso and diagonally dance on their own. Then come hands - sprawling movements sweep every possible surface of the stage space. Finally, fingers - steadily and one at a time, bend in self-admiration.

In “Simple Moves” by Jens Bjerregaard, there is no narration or continuity. Rather than the principle of cause and effect, it's blind chance that characterises the stage movement. Furthermore, it's not even possible to determine a stable centre of the movement; it is replaced by the body in motion. Thus, each element of the scene is equally important. Reversing the famous words of Pina Bausch, the Danish choreographer is more interested in how we move rather than what moves us. The essence of the dance, for Jens Bjerregaard, is pure movement.

The idea of a dance devoid of expression and plot, based only on the eponymous "simple moves" may raise some objections. Can we call a sheerly physical movement art, and is that kind of movement possible in the first place? Bjerregaard answers "yes". Dance with no emotions, content or purpose is possible. Not only in dreams, but also on the stage, as it was proved yesterday. "Simple Moves" is strange, but intriguingly beautiful. Not only for enthusiasts of surrealism.

Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Tue Aug 10, 2010 12:00 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Bytom 2010 - reviews

Now it’s your turn
Review of “Jetzt bist du Dran”, July 2010

By Joanna Zielińska

“Jetzt bist du Dran” (“Now it’s your turn”) is composed of three parts complementing each other: firstly the documentation of the past in the form of Harmen Tromp’s reconstruction of Andrei Jerschik’s original 1929 choreography “Madman” (“Mensch im Wahn”) performed here by the Czech dancer, Petr Ochvat. Secondly, there is the contemporary work, inspired by anddrawing on the original piece which is the result of the cooperation between Tromp and the Austrian dancer / choreographer, Georg Blaschke. Thirdly, we have a video filmed in the rehearsal room, presenting the middle phase between the model and its interpretation.

To begin, we see a slim, young man with short hair wearing straight, gray trousers and a shirt standing in one of the corners of the post-industrial space of Szombierki Power Plant. After a little while, he begins a moving solo performance that takes us back to the first half of the 20th century and German expressionist dance, Ausdrucktanz. The dancer’s movements are expressive, vigorous, exaggerated and firmly grounded by the dynamic music of Sergei Rachmaninoff. “Madman” points at the same time to the protagonist of this dance work. The dance represents various stages of madness of a man, completely unfit for living socially, whose outlook on reality is filtered through his subjectivity. (Previously, the choreography was interpreted as a critical metaphor of dictatorship.)

In the next section, its originators and creators, Blaschke and Tromp, appear on stage. They acknowledge the audience in silence and sit on chairs facing the performance area, as if for a rehearsal. The dancer, Petr Ochvat, performing Blaschke's variations on Jerschik's original work, transmits his body and consciousness from the psychological process of retrospection to the industrial building in the present time. Deriving impulses from various architectural elements: wall, balustrade, and floor, on the one hand, he follows the thus resulting movement of arm, head, torso, and inertly falls under the weight of his own body. On the other hand, he fits into the wall, corners and other elements of the hall, attempting to reconfigure the original movement. Stillness, silence, arrested movement, echo, slow fall – these are the basic elements of the choreography, accompanied partly by the electronic music of Mika Vainio.

In the final scene of this section, Ochvat reaches towards the audience and his mentors with his arms, and kneels. The lighting changes into a beam of intense light coming from behind and accentuating his shadow. After a moment of silence and stasis, the artist sits next to his masters. The third, and last, part of the work begins – a video showing two dancers working in a studio. It presents the process of reconstruction and recreation of Jerschik’s original choreography conducted by Ochvat and Tromp, as well as various movement improvisations and searches performed by Tromp and Blaschke, who share the same stage space. Finally, the video brings us to the source of the original solo, the figure of Jerschik himself, filmed giving hints and teaching particular movement sequences to Tromp.

“Now it’s your turn” is a record of the processes of conveying a message, memorising and translating the movement through the bodies of successive generations of dancers. On the one hand, the work raises the issue of the significant subjectivity of the art of dance which stems from its medium, the body, different every time, always interpreting and presenting movement in another way, depending on individual characteristics. On the other hand, the work confronts a specific dancing body with a multitude of movement vocabularies and the consequences of such a situation, that is the numerous ways a choreographic text may be read- the variety of the forms of expression in dance.

Jerschik’s dance is made to face time passing in human consciousness, linked with the changes occurring in sensitivity, perception, and even dancers’ physicality. This contrast is well rendered in the video showing the rehearsals. What is noticeable is the juxtaposition of the two ways of treating dance and expression through movement. Therefore, on the one hand, we have the figure of Tromp, whose attention while dancing is directed completely inwards; he appears to be absent, indifferent to the surroundings. In this way, he refers to the expressionist dance method of getting closer to movement and body; its essence is a one-way process from the internal to the external, or, in other words, translating a dancer’s emotions and tensions into the language of movement used by the body. On the other hand, there is the other extreme represented by Blaschke who is unrestricted in moving around the hall; he touches the walls, rearranges and pushes objects in his way, or even Tromp himself. The former translates choreography into his own specific style, which derives energy and looks for forms of expression at the intersection of the dancer’s body and his awareness of what’s outside, the characteristics of the place, its architecture, or the natural force of gravity the body must obey. Here, dance is the product of a conscious and active duet, in which space marks the forms and borders of movement. Blaschke’s theory is accompanied by a special language based on release technique, which allows the dancer’s body to yield freely to the structure of the place, following the impulses coming from objects, architecture, gravity, or even clothes, without the use of will.

In other words, “Now it’s your turn” shows two modes of expression: one which comes from the inside and is a result of introspection, and one consisting in going beyond the dancer’s body, will and personality into the seemingly objective space of everyday life, which becomes expressive because of the man’s presence in it. Every generation adds something new to dance - innovative perspectives, attitudes, sensitivity. Now it's your turn…

Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Tue Aug 10, 2010 12:04 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Bytom 2010 - reviews

Vaslav Nijinsky, The Afternoon of a Faun

By Regina Lissowska

Among the many events hosted by The International Dance Conference and Performance Festival, there is also a project The Afternoon of a Faun, directed by Claudia Jeschke. On this occasion, it would be worth recalling the circumstances of the premiere of this revolutionary work.

The figure of Vaslav Nijinsky is still exciting passionate interest among those involved in the theatre, while his choreographies constitute a fertile source of inspiration for contemporary artists. An incredibly talented dancer – special sequences and even whole ballets were created to present his technical abilities. As a choreographer, he created four works for Les Ballets Russes: L`aprés – midi d`un faun [The Afternoon of a Faun] (1912); Le Sacre du printemps [The Rite of Spring] (1913); Jeux [Games] (1913) and Till
Eulenspiegel (1916). Each one of them was extremely innovative, but few noticed their potential. Diaghilev, a close friend of Nijinsky, agreed to stage his pieces, because he was fascinated with his ideas, although they opposed the rules applying at that time,. They differed from the style of the performances presented by both Les Ballets Russes and traditional ballet pieces.

Nijinsky aimed at liberating dance from romantic conventions, breaking with classical aesthetics and introducing his own unique style. The viewers didn’t understand his choreographies, the premieres caused scandals. The critics’ opinions, writing about the performers’ lack of gracefulness in dance, indicate that his works were evaluated according to ballet criteria, which they obviously didn’t meet. From the perspective of the history of dance, his two first choreographies were especially important. The Afternoon of a Faun was inspired by Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun (1884) by Claude Debussy, based on Stéphane Mallarmé’s poem The Afternoon of a Faun (1876). However, the composer was reluctant to make his score available to the ballet creators. Nijinsky prepared himself painstakingly for this choreography. He familiarized himself with the dance style of the ancient Greece – he devoted a lot of time to visiting museums and analyzing the plasticity of movement. In the piece, he deployed profile poses, based on ancient relief.

In the sphere of set and costume design, the colourful, garish folklore the audience of Les Ballets Russes knew from Fokine’s times, disappeared without trace. Subdued, earthy colours prevailed on stage – that may be the reason why the viewers seemed uninterested. Instead of symbolic aesthetics suggested by the music, realistic choreography and set design were introduced. And it was this realistic tendency that wasn’t accepted.

The faun made concrete, unequivocal movements. Nijinsky planned this character to remain on the border between what is human and animal. He rejected presenting dramatic conflicts, replacing them instead with fleeting emotions. Thus, he became the forerunner of the changes occurring in dance nowadays. He played the faun, rendering his emotions – human desire, and, at the same time, male sexual drive. This ambiguity was visible in his stage makeup.

Nijinsky created a new movement language, which had little to do with the strictly conventional and ornamental ballet code. The movements of the faun cannot be treated as dance in the traditional meaning of the word. They were rather particular activities such as: walking, running, kneeling, bending, turning around, and jumping. This minimalism in terms of means of expression was impressive. Nijinsky’s dance was devoid of gracefulness and lightness- by contrast, it was full of strength and dynamism, resulting from the sense of the body’s weight and balance. The movement was initiated from the pelvis. The female dancer, performing the role of the nymph, didn’t move in the romantic way, imitating flight. Instead of en pointe, she danced on flat feet. Moreover, Nijinsky changed the spatial arrangement and the way bodies were presented in it. He didn’t use proscenium and the en dehors position, but, in defiance of ballet tradition, he placed the performers in a line, parallel to the footlights, as in relief, to present the dancers’ profiles. The centre of the space was shaped by the relations occurring between the artists’ bodies.

The 1987 reconstruction of the piece prepared by Ann Hutchinson Guest and Claudia Jeschke shows that the positions of feet and knees were parallel - another foretoken of the modern dance technique.

During its Paris premiere, on May, 29, 1912, in the Théâtre du Châtelet, loud protests from the audience interrupted the performance, and b as a result of the last scene, it was deemed pornographic. In this notorious fragment, the nymph loses her scarf, and the faun, treating it as a fetish, simulates masturbation. As the embassy and prefecture demanded , the piece was censored and presented later in an abridged version. The premiere version was performed again only in 1980, thanks to Millicent Hodson’s reconstruction.

Nijinsky’s The Afternoon of a Faun, resembles more a tableau vivant than a harmoniously danced piece. Choreography didn’t mean here a combination of codified steps and figures, instead dance inspired by everyday life came into being. That is why the genre represented by The Afternoon of a Faun is called a choreographic tableau. Despite the realistic convention, the essence of the work was symbolic. The charges formulated against Nijinsky concerned depriving chorography of dance, action, and story. The viewers’ disillusionment stemmed from what they were accustomed to and expected – another beautiful, colourful piece from Les Ballets Russes. In spite of criticism, Nijinsky didn’t abandon his avant-garde path. He continued to develop his choreographic language, and a year later, he created The Rite of Spring.

Regina Lissowska

Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Tue Aug 10, 2010 12:07 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Bytom 2010 - reviews

Depicted with Laughter
Review of “Banquet” by Tranzdanz, July 2010

By Monika Szylar

The piece presented by the Hungarian Company TranzDanz on the stage of the Silesian Dance Theatre proved to be a mosaic of dance techniques and a display of brilliant acting, combined with a good dose of mockery.

In the space cleared after the previous night's party, another everyday story begins. The vigorous bodies of the dancers, with shining gold chains and bracelets, adjust their movement to the music played by a DJ. The range of tunes includes an opera diva’s singing, Latin-American melodies, as well as contemporary disco sounds. The dancers’ movements, exaggerated and awkward, imitate different dance techniques. We can see caricatures of classical, ballroom, folk, or even ethnic dance. The bursts of laughter from the audience became louder with every sequence.

“Banquet” seems to present the lives of people living in our part of the world nowadays. The Hungarian group depicts a Central European figure who hurriedly tries to catch up with the Western model, still deeply rooted in their own culture, and attached to their habits and traditions. The plenitude of dance techniques we observe on stage represents the plurality inherent in our consciousness, being constantly exposed to various geographical, social, and cultural influences.

The result of such a combination is a work which, first and foremost, amuses, but should also encourage reflection. That is the message we are left with by the choreographer, Gerzson Peter Kovacs. In the last scene, the dancers laugh the loudest. Yet, this laughter doesn’t match the viewers’ silence. The clownish feast is accompanied with “Gloria in Excelsis Deo” and a bloody act of profanity. Does the saying “he who laughs last, laughs best” apply here?

Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Tue Aug 10, 2010 12:08 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Bytom 2010 - reviews

Poland-Iceland 1:1

By Magdalena Mikrut

Dance Bridge, a collaboration between Iceland Dance Company and Silesian Dance Theatre, is an extremely interesting theatrical project, whose results we could watch last Tuesday evening on the main stage in Bytom. "Singletrack" performed by Iceland Dance Company is another project on body theatre to be included in the vivid catalogue of curiosities created by choreographer Jacek Łumiński.

The audience saw a beautiful and detailed gymnastic performance, divided into a few segments referring to everyday life. The crucial element of the show is the panoptical, masculine eye, which peers at two women. The men look at them attentively, choosing their partners. The plot of the piece transcends the boundary of the stage, revoking the principle of the fourth wall, as one of the dancers moves away from the group and speaks to the audience directly. He is an outsider, who does not accept the established rules. The other dancers call him in vain, trying to curb his excess, but he continues his crusade - theatre enters daily life. Next, the viewer has a chance to see a scene of wedding preparation. Surely, this is another borderline situation, since the man's casual dress is replaced by a white shirt, and the woman's hair is combed to look flawless. Another transgression is marked by the fear on the woman's face. During the dance of the betrothed, the scene is illuminated by a green fog, an extraordinarily beautiful aesthetic element. The subsequent parts of the dance depict aspects of human relationships and social interactions are dominant in the show's composition. "Singletrack" ends with a scene depicting more pessimistic aspects of human life, in which individuals, who differ from the rest, become alienated and are left on their own, on the stage of life.

The core of the narration could be found in a million of messages in thousands of stories, but is it really necessary? Accepting the body as the main object of perception, and carnality as the main theme of the piece seems enough. For some works, any attempt to interpret them will lead to over-interpretation. These works of the artistic soul should be experienced and perceived without trying to explain them. The plot of the piece is a living entity, taking a new form each time it is staged. Art is life, and life is filled with art. The cogs of the machine fit perfectly.

Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Tue Aug 10, 2010 12:10 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Bytom 2010 - reviews

Digital Perspective
Review of „Digital Duende” by Karttunen Kollektiv, July 2010

Ewa Zielińska

“Digital Duende” is an amusing work which plays with the stereotype of Spain, or rather what is most often understood as Spanish culture.

Therefore, we heard flamenco and saw toreadors. Yet, most importantly, we could admire the superb movement and outstanding lightness of both of the dancers, as well as brilliant use of props and space. The background was black, while the red floor nicely accentuated the dancers’ movements. The latter colour is invariably associated with Spain, passionate and fiery.

Flamenco, as performed by Karttunen Kollektiv, doesn’t resemble the dance we know. As the viewers were entertained by the innovatory form chosen by the performers, it would be recommended to reflect on the selection of the forms of expression. Moreover, the title of the piece is quite telling if it comes to interpreting the whole.

We live in the world of appearances in which we experience many things through multimedia; it may even be said that our lives consist partly of digital identities. This knowledge and virtual omnipresence offer us a pretence of real experiences. A similar point is made in this performance, in which the artists present what in commonly treated as Spanish; they imitate the image widely known, but not experienced directly. This resembles a children’s play created by acting out scenes observed earlier.

The word “digital” speaks for itself, “duende” refers to the essence of what is Spanish. We experience this “Spanishness” fragmentarily: there’s flamenco, a bull, toreadors. We see what we imagine to be normal in a given situation, rather than what really happens.

It is like hazy memories of someone who has seen flamenco and tries to recreate it, what results in the emergence of a completely new dance. It is like putting on a shirt to resemble a toreador only symbolically. Yet, one has to admit that these bull tamers in their fight against darkness (toreador is a symbol of light) did a pretty good job.

Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Tue Aug 10, 2010 12:32 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Bytom 2010 - reviews

Reality is not enough
"La La Land" by Silesian Dance Theatre, June 2010
, June 2010

By Magdalena Mikrut

Today, when the 17th edition of the Dance Conference opens, we should ask ourselves one question – what is the essence of a dance work? When can we say that a given event should be considered a performance? Is the reality truly a reality, or rather an object that already deserves interpretation? All these questions are raised by the experience of watching “La La Land”, presented by the Silesian Dance Theatre. During the show, the audience was simultaneously watching both the action happening on stage and the projected images of a TV screen placed above it. This receiver is a symbolic indicator of our times. The combination of the two sources of expression is an interesting, yet risky, operation which can leads to distracting attention and confusion. Nevertheless, that can be seen as the syndrome modern man is suffering from – the need to navigate between numerous centers of activity.

The dancers used the whole space marvelously. Twisting and turning in a dance that resembled the movement of electrons, they filled the foreground, as well as the background, with their bodies. The disturbing accompanying music may be compared to the noise made by a broken television set. It was irritating, annoyingly intense. One may be even tempted to liken the dancers to pixels or migrating information, which can reach thousands with its prevailing current. With some people it interacts, it intrigues them and stimulates observation, while with others, it doesn’t make contact and remains ignored.

An important element of the set design was the flowers, carried onto the stage over a period. Rearranged over and over again by the male dancers, eventually, they made a kind of a garden. This creation seems to be presenting the audience with Diderot’s saying that, “Everyone should tend their own garden.”

What is undoubtedly significant for the set-design essence of the performance is the material of the plants, which illuminated the murky stage to a large extent, and were created from plush and plastic. Instead of animation and freshness, the props sealed the modern image of the world.

The spectacle “La La Land” touches upon some pressing problems of the world nowadays. The technicolor, flowery set design renders the aesthetics of the virtual world, created with an exaggerated attention to detail, burdened with the desire to be more real than the reality. The expressive dance, performed to the rhythm of cacophonous music, revealed various social relations, different human needs, chaos.

In the virtual world, everyone shapes their identity individually, yet, a considerable amount of on-line activity is devoted to watching others. Maybe sometimes it would be good to stop for a while and dedicate some time to reflection? Maybe that is the message to be derived from the piece inaugurating the 17th International Dance Conference? Posing rhetorical questions matters.

Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Tue Aug 10, 2010 12:34 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Bytom 2010 - reviews

La La Land, or concerning artificiality, June 2010

By Ewa Zielińska

Jacek Luminski’s dance works are like fingerprints. They match only one owner. “La La Land” is typical of the artistic work of the Silesian Dance Theatre. Not only does it stylistically resemble the last production, “Panopticon”, but, just as in the earlier work, it alludes to a well-known concept, this time technological determinism. Here, again as in the earlier performances, the main idea proves somewhat elusive for the audience, as it is often only loosely connected with the stage movement.

The technological theme is presented in the middle section, a stylistically different part of the spectacle with conversation, monologues and stage jokes. The two remaining parts, concentrating on body and movement, are accompanied by an unpleasant noise: buzzing, uncomfortable, resembling a droning sound coming from a television set – like the waves generated by modern devices, a sound we can finally painfully sense. This tactility does not happen everyday, millions of waves emitted by mobile phones, radios, television sets and computers pierce our bodies unawares. Only thanks to the images is the viewer here offered the possibility of joining the parts into a whole.

It is universally acknowledged that technology causes mass popularisation, homogenisation, loss of individual identity, and consumption of sweet pop culture, illustrated here by synchronous movement, kitschy, plushy flowers, blurring the portraits into one. Today, thanks to modern thought, apart from globalisation, we can enumerate also globalisation (think globally, act locally), which often goes hand in hand with nationalism. These tendencies, although they fight each other, belong to the same process occurring in the postmodern world. It is not surprising, therefore, that despite the continuous assimilation, the reverse happens – the time of conflict and differentiation has come.

To concentrate for a moment on the convergence process, it would be helpful to use hermeneutic tools. On this occasion, I decided to refer to a cultural text from the pop/kitsch/commercialism sphere. “La La Land” is a song performed by one of the so-called Disney stars, Demi Lovato, a young girl singing about being yourself and wearing converse shoes with a dress. Demi and her song are one of the first results of browsing the Web for “la la land”. I feel there is a link between the clip and the meadow created on stage. Cutesy world, sold to kids all over the globe, is only one of the simulacra created nowadays.

Artificial worlds in which we think we experience reality proliferate by the thousand. As quick as the kitschy, artificial flowers are produced for us. They are soft, with pastel colors and smiley faces – yet, what’s the use of them if they remain inanimate.

Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Tue Aug 10, 2010 12:35 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Bytom 2010 - reviews

Life, from the point of view of women

By Magdalena Mikrut

The Studio of Mature Theatre, working in cooperation with The Silesian Dance Theatre, creates performances inspired by life itself. The idea is addressed to the participants of the 50+ dance workshops. Those who take part in the project prepare dance stories not about the life of world-famous celebrities, but use their own experiences and transform everyday situations into artistic creations.

Their works show how to enjoy life, how to cherish even the most commonplace things, which can be a source of pleasure and self-realisation. The pieces presented by the Studio of Mature Theatre show the viewers how to derive energy from life, which abounds with joys and sorrows. They make the audience aware of the fact that we all have just one lifetime and it shouldn’t go to waste. Their performances are carefully balanced and reflexive, even though they are simply staged, with ascetic set-design.

The piece “Oh those women”, directed by Katarzyna Rybok, was staged in the ballet hall of the Silesian Dance Theatre on Wednesday evening, 30th June, with rehearsals taking place over two months. The performance attracted crowds of people, which the room was barely able to hold. The plot is uncomplicated - the protagonist is a woman who has gone through a lot. Nevertheless, the simple choreography is captivating. The courage with which the women step on stage is enchanting. Their movements reflect typical, everyday situations. The repertoire of gestures starts with peeling vegetables and preparing pork-chops, then develops into grinding poppy seed, to end with rolling out dough. A rolling pin is the essential attribute of every housewife who guards the ******* shrine. The dancing women with rolling pins in their hands shake them threateningly, as if to warn that they may be used as a tool to serve justice. After the ******* scene, the music is replaced with a voice telling the story of another woman whose experiences changed the way she sees the world and herself. At last, she started to appreciate her drab existence, which doesn’t have to be so drab if we make a little effort. After the story, there is a scene in which the women select clothes from a basket and try them on with pleasure. The sequence ends with an ethereal dance with pink scarves, resembling exercises with gymnastics ribbons.

One of the performers admits that the classes give her lot of energy but she is most grateful for the time she can spend with her colleagues from the “dance company”. The ladies who presented “Oh those women” come back year after year to the conference and the dance workshops for seniors. They constitute a well-integrated and close-knit team; dance is for them is both a pleasure and an investment in themselves. The group is proof that the autumn of life need not be a period of stagnation but of new, exciting possibilities.

Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Sat Aug 14, 2010 5:06 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Bytom 2010 - reviews

The magic of the classics

By Magdalena Mikrut

As a result of continuous experiment, we sometimes tend to forget about the great value of tradition. Our thinking which is supposed to be innovative, often unjustly excludes the past, demarcating it with a visible line. The piece "Rose & Bolero" performed by Sungsoo Ahn Pick-UP Group proved that a combination of traditional technique and modern dance gives fantastic effects.

The work of Korean choreographer Sungsoo Ahn is a diptych joined into effective unity owing to the dancers, who simply stunned the audience. The first part of the show, "Rose", presents the history of a tribe, where each spring women perform rites and dances worshipping the life-giving Earth. However, the tradition is disturbed, and the taboo negated, when men are allowed to take part in the rite. Only making a sacrifice of men could revoke the transgression and restore the balance and harmony.

Interestingly, seven artists took part in the show, with the mystical number expressing the perfect unity and inseparable connection of time and space. The dancers' costumes reflected their unity with the Earth. Their black trousers a reminder of historical roots and a connection with the centre of the Earth, their moves inspired by classical music, providing the audience with peace and harmony.

Among many shows presented during the first week of the conference on the stage of the Silesian Dance Theatre, "Rose & Bolero"definitely stands out. The viewers experience serenity and calmness; the aesthetics of the movement arouse admiration. Furthermore, when the dancers reorganize their figures, swiftly changing their choreography, they begin to quiver chaotically. With a change of melody comes another change of the arrangement of bodies. The dancers submit to a choreographic regime dictated by the music. During the work, we notice a distinction between the male and female dancers, as depicted in a dichotomous split of the space of action, where we can distinguish a sphere of the sacred controlled by the women, who worship the heavens, and a sphere of the profane, where slightly hunched men seem to be more earthbound.

The second part of the work, entitled "Bolero" is much more classical. The choreographer created meticulous architectural structures, based on the idea of a circle formed by human bodies. Within its limits, the dancers move, gesturing energetically. The magic circle may represent the Mother Earth, who continually gives birth to new organisms. The dances form a universal communion. The characters of the show were unified, devoid of individuality. The division into two, antagonistic spheres: the male and the female was blurred owing to a careful selection and uniformity of the dancers' costumes. Beams of the blue light falling from above, gave the illusion of a lunar glow, illuminating the twirling, ethereal bodies. The intimacy that appeared between the human links of the complex architectural composition, caused the viewer's eye to stop perceiving individuals and start to perceive the global structure - seeing one organism. The waving bodies seemed to levitate and the magic of the dance, with the smoothness of movements, made the twirling circle float in the skies. The visual attractiveness of the show was enhanced by well known music by Stravinsky. This Korean work is an extremely delicate composition, with a charming precision of performance and smoothness of movements, that fit perfectly with the accompanying music.

Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Sat Aug 14, 2010 5:10 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Bytom 2010 - reviews

What are you laughing at?
Review of “Banquet”, TranDanz, July 2010

By Regina Lissowska

A banquet begins. Five people flirt with each other and the audience, with affected, mannered gestures. Their faces are contorted with fake smiles. Their tasteless, pretentious clothes, selected from what is seemingly “in” and adorned with excessive amounts of golden jewelry, leave no doubt that what we observe is the snobbish cream of society.

They are not really characters but embodied stereotypes of rich parvenus, who blindly follow examples from their favorite soap-operas - archetypes of stupidity. They don’t establish contact in their shallow conversation as they remain too focused on keeping up appearances - maintaining satisfactory images requires a lot of effort. From time to time, they leave the stage to check their hairdos and clothes somewhere in the back.

Later on, we experience successive ,solo sequences, as well as duos and group dance, all full of artificiality, portraying particular aspects of their attitudes. They are full of awe at a kitschy song performed by one of the men. Their affectation when listening to the hit fragment of Vivaldi’s “Gloria” has no limits. Accompanied by the sounds of baroque arias, they clumsily imitate classical ballet, very content that they may become part of what they treat as high culture themselves. Moreover, their view on folklore is emphasised – for this group it’s an opportunity to manifest their apparent patriotic feelings. The fragments which allude to Hungarian folk dances are presented with deadly seriousness, incongruous with the idyllic, superficial form Hungarian music assumes in the whole piece.

However, deep under the surface of ignorance, some signs of reflection appear. These are the moments when fake smiles are replaced with weariness, and languid trembling of tired bodies takes the place of bizarre gestures. They start to reveal their loneliness, hidden so far under their apparent sociability. There is only time true understanding is present – this is the moment when they dance in a circle, harmoniously, synchronously. However, that doesn’t last long, a new tune pushes them back to the self-imposed roles.

“Banquet” is a piece inspired by “The Banquet in Blitva”, a book by a Croatian author, Miroslav Krleža. It tells the story of a fictional state, always foggy and muddy, the citizens of which, including the highest ranks of intellectuals and those in power, are characterized by astonishing stupidity. This theme, explored by Hungarian choreographer Gerzson Peter Kovacs, is treated as a universal condition.

A significant characteristic of the piece’s composition is cyclicality – the murky stage is illuminated by a beam of light at regular intervals. It also brings a change of music, compiled from performances of various well-known melodies.

The banquet elite may be found in each and every country. Stupidity doesn’t die, it is forever reborn. Assuming clownish forms on stage, it causes laughter. Yet, it is bitter, because underpinned with the awareness that we’re a part of the society which creates and tolerates such an attitude. Confronting its essence leads to certain anxiety – where will the consumer culture take us?

Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Sat Aug 14, 2010 5:14 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Bytom 2010 - reviews

Media – bridges or barriers?, July 2010

By Magdalena Mikrut

It was once said that a barbarian is someone who gibbers. Now, it is claimed that gibberish is the highest stage of the language individualisation process. However, to avoid falling into the cul-de-sac of gibbering, people created official languages, with the rules of application clearly stated. In “Box4” we had the opportunity to experience everyday media gibberish.

The main element of the set design was packages of waste paper, initially placed centrally on stage. As the action develops, the parcels spread all over it, culminating in the use of the used newspapers to erect a shaky tower. The constructors' ambition was to build a structure which would reach the skies, a second Tower of Babel. Even though, with its turning, the ruthless wheel of time moderates the events; history still likes to repeat itself and the building is bound to be destroyed. When it falls, the off-stage voice which accompanies the action changes from melodic to mumbling, hard to identify, and the dancers start to speak four languages: French, English, German, and Polish. They do it simultaneously, leading to a multilingual jabber, which surrounds us everywhere.

The central prop of the action was a newspaper, a medium traditionally thought of as the expansion of man. Marshall McLuhan classified it as a cool medium. The media, exemplified in the Canadian newspaper, is here the fourth power. Even Napoleon knew that “four hostile newspapers are more to be feared than a thousand bayonets,” while the media theory was developed by the aforementioned, Canadian-born, McLuhan. He’s a figure of great importance as he created The Toronto School of Communication, where he conducted research on communication and mass culture. It seems that Kinesis Dance Somatheatro aim at celebrating and propagating his heritage.

The newspapers are physical obstacles for the dancers to fight. They represent communication barriers, but they can also act as a bridge over an abyss, to connect people. The dancers and the choreographer animate the space and use the set design effectively, employing it to create interesting choreographic compositions. Nonetheless, their abstract dance is closer to conceptual than traditional technique. The conceptual Tanztheater prevailing on stage was born out of the combination of ideas with matter and movement plasticity, giving interesting results.

The sequence closing the Canadian work was a scene in which the dancers, to the rhythm of dynamic music, rush insanely to stuff the newspapers into their clothes, which start to inflate, so they get rid of them. Trousers and blouses with welts become bags filling up with waste paper. People want knowledge, gossip, news, more stimuli, messages without message. The society of individuals transforms into a homogenous mass. Gibberish cannot be avoided.

The choreographer, Paraskevas Terazakis, used a typical Hollywood trick. In the opening scene, a mysterious box appeared on stage, into which each of the dancers put something of their own. During the dance narration, the artists moved around the prop, touching it from time to time. The audience, sensing the approaching finale, waits anxiously for the mystery to be resolved, aware of the Hollywood rule that if you say in the first chapter that there is a rifle hanging on the wall, in the second or third chapter it absolutely must go off. The time has come. Naked dancers, under the cover of darkness, approach the box. They crouch. Slowly, painstakingly, they take out small bundles, which, unwrapped, prove to be torches they use to light their faces. It leads to an incredible effect, resembling the images of aliens we know from films. The dancers change into shadows, figures subjected to mass culture homogenisation, and disappear beyond the event horizon .

This conceptual piece by Kinesis Dance Somatheatro is extremely rich in metaphors and hidden symbols, impossible to describe in detail. It perfectly characterises the contemporary world of information, eradicating truth to replace it with media sensations. The choreography, although based on a limited range of gestures, is very well thought-out and matches the play of lights.

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